Scotland got the win that they needed, registered their highest score since a victory over Portugal at the 2007 World Cup and set themselves up nicely for the greater challenges to come – with the Springboks next up. While they left room for improvement, the home side were good for their win, overcoming a shaky start to dominate proceedings and taking full advantage of Fiji’s fickle discipline.
Scotland scored eight tries in all, five of which came after the break. The two either side of half-time put this one to bed and came when the visitors were reduced to 13 and 14 men respectively, with both locks sent to the sin bin.
If the Scots were a little over-reliant on their driving maul in an edgy first half, with two tries and two yellow cards coming as a direct result, they attacked with renewed confidence after the break as Fiji’s resistance crumbled. The first half was an even contest, but most of the second was played deep inside the Fijian half of the field.
Tommy Seymour bagged a hat trick of tries and should have had four. Sam Skinner on his debut walked off with the man of the match award. The Scottish half-back pairing of Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell did the needful, pulling the strings and orchestrating play, and Stuart Hogg has lost none of his pace during his time on the sidelines, looking sharp even if the gaps didn’t open for him yesterday.
Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss worked tirelessly in the back row, the latter making his first appearance since coming in from the cold, improving as the match progressed. Ritchie’s late try was a well-deserved reward for all his heavy lifting.
For the second weekend in succession Scotland started slowly, Finn Russell kicking high from his own 22 to gift the Fijians a first feel of the ball in an attacking position. A few phases later Scotland were pinged at the breakdown and Ben Volavola took the easy three.
Scottish nerves were further frayed when Alex Dunbar missed a regulation tackle on his opposite number Semi Radradra and the visitors almost went the length.
Eventually the Scots got hands on the ball, ran through a few phases and looked dangerous as they did so. A penalty gave them an attacking lineout and at the second attempt their driving maul got them to within inches of the line with Allan Dell finishing of from point blank range.
That try and Laidlaw’s conversion gave Scotland the lead on 11 minutes and just six minutes later they extended their advantage in much the same way.
With the game breaking up, Peter Horne held on to the ball when Seymour on the right wing could have walked the ball in. The centre was held up by the last defender but, luckily for him, Fraser Brown saved his blushes with a close-range shunt a few phases later.
Fiji reacted just as Scotland had done, matching them blow for blow with a brace of tries. Bill Mata plays for Edinburgh so the rangy No.8 knows his way around Murrayfield. He scored after Scotland overcooked a lineout and fellow flanker Peceli Yato made the initial break before offloading for Mata to finish it off.
Six minutes later one missed tackle by Dell on Tevita Cavubati allowed the giant lock to send centre Semi Radradra powering over the Scotland line.
The game had see-sawed one way then the other but with half an hour gone the pendulum swung decisively towards the Scots and it stayed there. Brown thought he had a second score on 33 minutes only for the TMO to wipe it off for an obstruction.
Fiji’s poor discipline then cost them dearly as the visitors first lost one lock and then the other in the space of six minutes at the end of the first half as they defended their line, illegally dropping a series of Scottish driving mauls.
As you’d expect the Scots filled their boots against the short-handed opposition, with one try immediately before the break and another straight after it.
Against 13 defenders Russell’s long cut pass found Seymour and the winger belatedly had his score. Laidlaw’s touchline conversion gave his side a 21-17 lead at the break. Then Seymour (twice) and Maitland added tries in the third quarter to end the game as a contest. Seymour’s final one was the best of them with slick handling and the outright pace of substitute Chris Harris enabling the winger to finish expertly in the north-east corner of the stadium.
With the match won and lost, things fell into something of a stalemate but the Scottish bench brought some late added energy to proceedings.
Ritchie was able to score from short range and Adam Hastings, after a break by Russell, from further out to add a little more icing to Scotland’s considerable cake.